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Workers in high-risk environments like meat factories could be one of the first groups to get the vaccine

Government will decide on who should get the Covid-19 vaccine first next week.

Varakar said today that it is
Varakar said today that it is "not rocket science" as to who the first recipients are likely to include.
Image: Shutterstock/El Nariz

WORKERS IN HIGH risk environments like meat factories could be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine when it is rolled out in Ireland.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, which is tasked with dealing with the prioritisation of what groups get the vaccine first, is due to report back soon. 

It is expected the report will be brought to Cabinet on Tuesday by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, and Government will then decide on who should get the Covid-19 vaccine first. 

It is widely expected in government circles that the vaccine is likely to be available in early January.

Varadkar said today that it is “not rocket science” as to who the first recipients are likely to be, saying that this would include the elderly, healthcare staff, nursing home residents and staff, as well as front line workers.

Meat plants 

Those who work in high risk environments, like meat factories, could also be prioritised, said the Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste also confirmed that there will be no charge for the vaccine.

Last night, the Taoiseach told his parliamentary party meeting that the vaccine will be free to people across the country and the government will work flat out to logistically roll it out.

“Those that need it the most will get it,” said Varadkar today.

“I think everyone understands that those who will be prioritised will be those who need it the most.

“Health care workers because of the increased risk and also the risk they have in spreading it to patients.

“Residents of nursing homes and also those who are older and have chronic diseases.

“Those are the groups that are going to be prioritised,” said the Tánaiste.

Speaking about the government indemnifying the companies that have produced the vaccines, he said “we have to do it” as it is a new vaccine. 

The government, through the European consortium, has signed up to a number of vaccines, with the Taoiseach saying that additional vaccines beyond existing vaccine agreements are likely to be signed up to.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Last night, Micheál Martin said there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that 2021 will be a different year as we emerge from Covid 19.

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Varadkar said today that the vaccine task force report is due on 11 Dec, with the group covering communications and logistics of the roll out.

Labour leader Alan Kelly also raised concerns about the IT issues and the new database the vaccine rollout will require. 

He said the government was embroiled in a controversy over the public services card involving data issues, and queried whether the government had done its homework in terms of what information the government plans to collect from the public. 

Kelly asked the Tánaiste had the government looked at how it will manage the data, asking: “Are we prepared for that, and does it need emergency legislation?” 

Varadkar said he did not have all the answers, but said that matter would have to be discussed by Cabinet. He said it may require secondary legislation, but if primary legislation is needed it would need to be voted on by the Dáil.

The Labour leader said if that is the case, the Dáil may have to hold an emergency sitting over the Christmas period.

Sinn Fein’s David Cullinane said there needs to be cooperation of community and voluntary organisations, and that pop-up vaccination centres should be rolled out, particularly for rural, remote, and poorly served areas.

“Healthcare workers, older people and high-risk persons should be prioritised, and due consideration should be given to the relative importance of prioritising immunisation on a geographic and economic-sectoral basis.

“Under 55s, and under 35s in particular, must be encouraged to get the vaccine as high uptake in these cohorts is essential,” he said.

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